Listener mail: Welcoming New Students to Your Study Group: A Dilemma

Q: Let me first start by saying I absolutely love your podcast. I follow you on Instagram and I think you're absolutely amazing and totally speak the truth about nursing school. The problem I'm having right now is my study group which consists of me and two other people want to add a fourth person, but this person is an emotional grenade. I don't think we'll work in the dynamic that we have for our study group.

I tried to explain my feelings to my study group. But they just saw it as me not wanting to help another student. Am I wrong for not wanting to expand our study groups as what we're doing is working or what? hope you can help.


A: Yay! Hi M-! Thanks for listening to the podcast. I’m so glad you’re into what I’m doing!

You’ve got a pretty common problem, I think. First l- a disclaimer - I’m a solo studier all the way. I tried study groups in nursing school with mixed success. I can say that there were people that came to study group that I didn’t necessarily mesh perfectly with, but I tried to keep it positive. Eventually, I stopped attending and worked on developing my study skills alone at my desk with some instrumental music in my ears.

But that’s me. Not everyone is a reclusive extrovert like I am, so I want to give you some more helpful advice than stay home and study with YouTube videos. (For those introverts reading, maybe you should do that!)

Here’s what I think you should do. First do a little soul searching. Explore why you feel this person would be a bad fit for the group. Are you holding any bias or personal judgement based on personality clashes, or is this person really a potentially toxic member of the group that will hinder studying? You use the phrase “emotional grenade”. I take this to mean they could blow up at any point. Have they done this before in front of you? I guess what I’m getting at is try to identify what your concerns are and decide if you’re being totally fair, and/or determine what’s your dealbreaker. I had periods in school where I was a hot mess. I would hope to not be excluded because I cried at clinical and they saw. On the flip side, I also had people in group confuse me more while we studied.

If you were my personal friend, I would ask if you’d be willing to try a study session or two with this person (if everyone else in the group is in favor, you gotta go with the popular vote). If something negative happens in those one or two sessions, the group may see your side and resume the original trio without you saying another word. If nothing grenade-like happens, then you may find that it’s not as awful as you expected. I actually had all sorts of preconceived notions about a woman I did training with at work, and I was shocked to find that we clicked once we were in a different environment.

If all that is not possible, or if you have witnessed disruptive expressions of emotion, then you may need to make a hard choice.  You could approach your two original study mates again with your concerns, but be sure you trust them to be reasonable about it. If they seem like the types to blab to the world that you’re trying to exclude a fellow student, that would be undesirable. If you think they will not budge, you may need to explore other study group options. I know this can be difficult when you like your group and  people have already settled into their groups for the semester. Maybe you could bow out for a couple sessions. Let the group see if they are a good fit before you return.

If you do want to find a different study group and you don’t know where to begin,  ask around, check in with instructors, the main office, library, or another study hub at your school. See if you can slide into another group. I wouldn’t go advertising that you are swapping out groups to avoid someone, maybe tell them the time they meet doesn’t work for you right now, or something more benign. Don’t burn bridges or get caught talking shit about this person, especially since you don’t know what they’re going through.

This might not be the answer you want, and others may have another perspective. I encourage you to ask others you trust if this advice isn’t what helps you. If all fails, this is the time to work on your own study skills. You have a long academic life ahead of you. Study groups will come and go, but your skills will remain in your tool belt forever. Throughout all this make sure you are strengthening your own methods and habits. 

I wish you a lot of luck for a good solution.

Happy Studying,

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